Zas, Nel not available for URC champs this weekend as Stormers look to face season pressure head-on

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  • The Stormers begin their United Rugby Championship title defence this weekend against Connacht in Stellenbosch.
  • Last season's top try-scorer Leolin Zas and centre Ruhan Nel are unavailable for selection due to injuries.
  • Assistant coach Dawie Snyman said the team is ready to face the pressure of being champions head-on.

Defending United Rugby Championship (URC) champions the Stormers will commence their 2022/23 season without the services of influential wing Leolin Zas and outside centre Ruhan Nel.

Zas, the competition's top-try scorer last season, injured his ankle in his team's semi-final clash against Ulster in June, while Nel took a "shot to the neck" during a pre-season game, Stormers assistant coach Dawie Snyman confirmed on Monday.

Both players won't be ready to face Connacht in Stellenbosch at the weekend.

The Stormers, however, aren't panicking about the pair's absence as they have an opportunity to pick from a string of youngsters to fill the gaps.

"Ruhan won't be available this weekend," Snyman confirmed to reporters. "That gives us an opportunity to have a look at some exciting players who have been with us for pre-season and now they will have an opportunity to measure themselves and we have a lot of confidence in them."

"Leolin is not ready yet, but we've got Angelo Davids back from the Sevens."

The Stormers have played two pre-season fixtures this month, with varying degrees of success. They put SWD Eagles to the sword, 94-7 in George, before going down 21-12 to the Sharks in Gqeberha.

Their opponents on Saturday is a team that beat them 19-17 last season, and have already gone down 36-10 to Munster in this current season.

Snyman said although Connacht may have had an extra week to iron out a few details, their preparation was always about this particular game as a start.

That start comes with the added pressure of being the champions, meaning they have to hit the ground running.

"Last season is last season, it's great to have a little bit of pressure on us, and that people are expecting us to play well. We will take it as motivation because we want to take a step forward from where we left off last season," Snyman added.

On Monday, the Springboks released Joseph Dweba and Salmaan Moerat from the national camp, while Damian Willemse suffered a concussion and was released to his franchise to begin his return to play protocols.

Snyman confirmed that the two players released would probably come into contention for selection from next week, particularly Dweba, who only recently joined the Stormers before being drafted into the Springbok set-up.

Saturday's kick-off at the Danie Craven Stadium is at 14:30.

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